The Washington Department of Ecology has approved Spokane County’s updated shoreline plan after years of debate over improving shoreline protections and public access.
Ecology Director Ted Sturdevant said in a news release Monday that the county’s cooperation was instrumental in protecting “our treasured shoreline resources for ourselves as well as for our children and future generations.”
But the update did not come easily. Four years ago, the state threatened to intervene when the county resisted stronger protections. As a result, major sections of the shoreline plan were actually written by the state.
The county previously had a 50-foot setback for development along shorelines in its 40-year-old plan.
The new law extends setbacks to 100 feet in residential areas, 150 feet in conservation areas and 200 feet in natural areas.
Spokane has 440 miles of shoreline, including the Spokane River, Little Spokane River and numerous lakes formed by historical flooding.
The county joins 60 local governments that have completed shoreline updates. Spokane Valley, Medical Lake and Millwood are currently working on updates. Spokane city officials approved their update in 2010.
The DOE said the new county plan protects private property rights; creates more efficient development review; safeguards fish and wildlife; reduces flooding risks to people and property; protects public access; and offers incentives for restoration.
The law requires that there be no net loss of environmental shoreline function due to development. Project review and design will be required. The updated law has limits on dock sizes and lengths.